- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002

From combined dispatches

JERUSALEM Israeli soldiers destroyed two houses belonging to suspected West Bank militants yesterday and reportedly arrested a Palestinian sniper they link to the shooting death last year of an Israeli baby.

The military destroyed the house of Iyad Sawalha, an Islamic Jihad member who was responsible for a suicide attack in which a bomber blew himself up in a car next to an Israeli bus in Israel's north on May 6, killing 17 passengers. Troops also knocked down the family home of Murad Abu Asal, who blew himself up on Jan. 30, wounding two Israeli soldiers.

Israel has demolished at least 20 homes of suicide bombers and suspected militants since late July in an attempt to dissuade other Palestinians from carrying out attacks. The Supreme Court upheld the policy on Aug. 6. The Palestinians and human rights groups denounce the practice as collective punishment.

The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz said on its Internet site that the army yesterday arrested suspected sniper Sudki Zaro, linked to the killing of 10-month-old Shalhevet Pass. The army refused comment.

Israel had said Shalhevet was shot in the head March 26, 2001, by a sniper as she lay in the arms of her father in the divided West Bank city of Hebron. About 3,000 people weeping, chanting psalms and demanding vengeance marched in Shalhevet's funeral procession.

In the Khan Younis refugee camp in the Gaza Strip yesterday, hundreds of Palestinians mourned the death of a 5-year-old Palestinian boy whose dream of going to school was cut short by Israeli gunfire Thursday.

Ayman Fares could hardly wait for his first day of school, but "they stole his happiness and ours," his mother, Sumaya Fares, said yesterday as the boy's flag-wrapped body headed for an early grave.

Mrs. Fares said she had already bought Ayman his school uniform and he was keen to begin a major new stage of his life, when shots fired by the Israeli army into the refugee camp killed him Thursday.

Hospital officials said Ayman died from a bullet in the back of the head. Palestinian security sources said an Israeli tank approached a residential area on the edge of the camp and opened fire "without reason."

An army spokesman said Palestinians had opened fire on Israeli forces, who shot back and injured one of the men. The army said it had no information about the shooting of a boy.

The child's grandfather, Nadid Fares, said he suffered a light bullet wound in the hand as he and a neighbor tried to get the boy's body out of the area to a hospital.

Palestinians and Israelis have been meeting for days to work out a plan for easing tensions in the Palestinian areas, but have made little progress so far.

Israeli Defense Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer was to see Palestinian Interior Minister Abdel Razak Yehiyeh on Thursday to discuss an Israeli pullout plan called "Gaza first." However, the Defense Ministry said the meeting had been postponed. Palestinian officials said it would probably take place tonight.

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